Horror moment mum knew teen had died
Both cross-country riding jumps on which the horses of Olivia Inglis, 17, and Caitlyn Fischer, 19, fell - crushing the teenage girls - had caused concern prior to the tragic accidents, an inquest has heard.
The dramatic circumstances leading up to the deaths by the "rotational falls" of the horses which killed the "beautiful, talented young women" were recounted in the NSW Coroner's Court today.
On March 6, 2016, 17-year-old Olivia died when her horse Coriolanus tripped and fell on top of her as she competed in a cross country event at the Scone Horse Trials in the NSW Upper Hunter Valley.
Despite receiving "urgent medical attention" from a doctor, paramedics and the Westpac rescue helicopter, Olivia was unable to be revived.
Just weeks later, on April 30, 2016, Ms Fischer was riding her horse, Ralphie, in a cross country event at the Sydney International Horse Trials.
Caitlyn's mother Ailsa, who sprinted over fences to be by her side minutes after her fall, said she was able to tell immediately that Caitlyn had died as she had major injuries and her pupils were dilated.
Ailsa told the girls' riding instructor Christine Bates, "There was nothing they could do, that Caitlyn was already gone".
The girls' mothers bowed their heads in court, Charlotte Inglis, of the well-known Inglis thoroughbred sales company, wept and wiped her eyes, as they heard evidence about their daughters' "enormous potential, intellectually, personally and also in this sport … to go right to the top".
The girls had both started riding young. Olivia from the age of four and Caitlin at seven. They had risen high in eventing, which is deemed "one of the toughest equestrian disciplines".
On March 6, 2016, Olivia had risen early with mother Charlotte at the course of the Scone Horse Trials, at Gundy in the Upper Hunter Valley.
Olivia had competed successfully the day before in dressage and show jumping on her horse Toga - competition name Coriolanus, a 16 hand thoroughbred former racehorse.
The cross-country event included jumps over fences, ditches, water, drops, bans and flower beds.
A "quiet, intelligent and talented" horse, Coriolanus had competed before in cross-country with Olivia and two star level, which was one below Olympic level.
Olivia and Charlotte had toured the course to see all fences and obstacles, as was customary for competitors, the evening before but it had got too dark.
On the same day, concerns had been expressed in relation to a combination jump, 8A and 8B which included a square spread set between hills with a slightly downward approach.
Charlotte spoke with another rider, an Olympic champion about the course.
Counsel Assisting the inquest, Peggy Dwyer, told the court "there was absolutely no pressure on Olivia to win that day" and Charlotte had told her daughter she could retire her horse if he missed certain jumps.
Olivia's father Arthur helped her saddle up and at 9.11am she began, jumped fence 8A, but at 8B, "Coriolanus missed his stride … causing him to have a rotational fall" on Olivia.
Charlotte Inglis' view of the 8A and 8B jumps were obscured, but "she heard there had been a fall and knew it was her daughter".
A paramedic found Olivia "unconscious but breathing on her own" and inserted a pharyngeal airways tube, and called a helicopter.
A jump judge, who had first aid training, rushed to the scene and said Olivia should not be moved.
When the girl's breathing began to drop away, she was ventilated with an airbag and a spectator who was a doctor applied chest compressions.
CPR continued until the Westpac helicopter arrived, "but there was nothing they could do to save Olivia's life".
She was pronounce dead at 10.05am, from chest injuries and damage to her lungs and plural cavity. Coriolanus had a fracture to his neck and was euthanised.
On the day Caitlyn Fischer was competing, on April 30, 2016, attendees at the Sydney International Horse Trials were still discussing the tragedy of Olivia Inglis' death.
Caitlyn, 19, was competing on Ralphie, a 16.2 hand thoroughbred she had ridden as a working pupil at the Willow Park, NSW property of Ms Bates.
The day after competing in the dressage round, Caitlyn and Ms Bates walked the cross-country course to look at obstacles and jumps.
The court heard the first two jumps had caused concerns, and Caitlyn's start had been delayed by a fall by another rider.
Ms Bates greased Ralphie's legs "to reduce injury" and Caitlyn told her the horse "was still feeling a little strong" and he might be "fresh and spooky" but she wasn't overly concerned.
At 10.40am, Caitlyn left the starters' box and 15 seconds later they rode past fence one looking "balance and with a good spread".
Ms Bates thought "they looked great" however, the second jump was over water "a weakness for Ralphie".
The table-style fence with a grid line to a bank of flowers was 210m from the start and it caused Ralphie to "miss his stride".
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"It appears Caitlyn and Ralphie approached the fence at good speed," Ms Dwyer told the court.
"But Ralphie appeared to look at something other than the jump as he approached it and just before the jump Ralphie tried to put one more stride in.
"And when there wasn't room, he hit the fence and had a rotational fall."
This caused him to rush Caitlyn, who was later found to have suffered a blunt force head injury.
Caitlyn's mother, Ailsa, saw the fall "and immediately sprinted to the side, on to the track … (and) was there in less than a minute".
A registered nurse since 1979 with accident and emergency experience, Ailsa was "able to tell immediately that Caitlyn had passed away".
She called her husband Mark in Bairnsdale Victoria to relate "the devastating news".
Ms Bates and another woman removed Caitlyn's vest and helmet and tried CPR despite Ailsa's observations that her daughter was dead.
At 10.46am, Ailsa called her husband again and had a conversation lasting three minutes and 28 seconds, but which time there were still no emergency responders at the scene.
The two week inquest into the deaths of Olivia Inglis and Caityn Fischer will hear evidence from equestrian, emergency services and other experts, as well as family.
The parents of Olivia, Arthur and Charlotte Inglis, arrived at the NSW Coroner's Court in Lidcombe earlier this morning.
Olivia's death sparked a social media storm of sympathy and grief, with young female horse riders around the world posting images of themselves on horseback alongside the #rideforolivia hashtag.
One of those young equestrians who posted a #rideforolivia tribute was Caitlyn Fischer, 19, of Bairnsdale, Victoria.
Just weeks later, on April 30, Ms Fischer was riding her horse, Ralphie, in a cross country event at the Sydney International Horse Trials when the animal's foot caught on a fence, and fell on top of the teenager.
She was provided urgent medical attention by the on-course paramedic and doctor but could not be revived.
Ms Fischer's mother, Ailsa, was at the event and her father, Mark, a paramedic, was flown to Sydney by CareFlight from Bairnsdale immediately after the accident.
The inquest into their deaths will be heard by NSW Deputy State Coroner Derek Lee.